Tacoma Chef – Steve Anderson

Maxwell’s Speakeasy + Lounge
454 St Helens Ave, Tacoma

On a Friday evening at Maxwell’s Speakeasy + Lounge in downtown Tacoma, live jazz blends with conversations and aromas that drift through the softly lit room. Overhead, crystal beads cascade from a chandelier. A waiter presents the day’s fresh catch. A steak sizzles. Bourbon whipped cream slides over warm cinnamon roll bread pudding. The bartender creates a masterpiece.

“Our lounge serves specialty handcrafted cocktails,” owner Steve Anderson said in an interview. “We make all our own simple syrup, infuse our own liqueurs and hand-squeeze our own juices. It’s labor intensive.”

Whether you choose the famous wagyu beef Walker Burger, filet mignon, apple-smoked pork chop, or half chicken with orange coriander beurre blanc, expect the best. Anderson learned early what the combination of love and good food can mean.

While his divorced mother worked two jobs, his aunt taught him to grow a garden and prepare meals at the age of 8. He needed those skills at 13, when his father suffered a serious industrial accident.

“I asked to go live with my dad and be his caretaker,” Anderson said. “Honestly, the best waiters, the best chefs, are all great caretakers.” The teen also shopped, cooked, attended school and worked in his uncle’s bakery. Anderson received his culinary arts education in the Navy: “I worked my way up through the ranks and ran the world’s largest submarine squadron, preparing 10,000 meals a day with 132 culinary specialists working under me.

“My focus is to take all my business knowledge and build a great culinary team,” Anderson said. He has also worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Teen Chefs program and plans “to give kids their shot in the culinary field and help them grow. I’ve seen a lot of kids go the wrong way in a big city.”

Luckily, he found his way in the kitchen. CANDACE BROWN